Printed with the permission of the Alpine Avalanche
Back in 1996, Gus Billing began gifting his loved ones with homemade, handmade goodies. He picked pecans from the large trees in the yard of his Fort Davis family home, and began making vanilla-almond coated pecans in his kitchen for Christmas gifts for his family. The nuts were such a hit that family encouraged him to start a business, and in 2003, the Fort Davis Nut Company on State Street in the heart of downtown Fort Davis opened.
With his brother David working at his side, the guys have expanded the Davis Mountain Nut Company and Gus’ Gourmet Flavored Pecans from their retail location out here in far West Texas to distant grocery stores, around the world via internet sales, the San Antonio Rodeo and the even the Texas State Fair.
Having just wrapped up another year as vendors at the San Antonio Rodeo, Gus usually works the first half of the show and Dave relieves him for the second half, then swings through Kerrville and San Angelo on the way back home to the Davis Mountains to check on their displays in the H-E-B stores there.
As of next month, the Davis Mountains Nut Company products will be found in 13 H-E-B stores including stores in San Antonio, Kerrville, Boerne, Midland, Odessa and San Angelo. On March 20th, shoppers at the Boerne store will find them on the shelves in the nut section. Small packets of Gus’ Gourmet Flavored Pecans are available at our local Porter’s grocery stores now.
The Billing brothers recently competed against 600 companies in the H-E-B “Quest for Texas Best” competition, and their assorted pecans were one of six products that were selected as finalists.
Purchasing 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of pecan halves per year, they have been getting pecans from San Saba for three years in a row. Once the nuts arrive at the Fort Davis store, each half is hand-cleaned before they are oven-roasted. Oven-roasting before hand-dipping each pecan-half with a light coat of a sweet or savory flavor truly sets these gourmet pecans apart from all others. The light coating allows the true pecan flavor to remain strong.
When I stopped by the store a few days ago, the ladies were busy cleaning pecans to ensure that none of the bitterness from the shell remained, one half at a time. There is a tremendous amount of effort and care put into the Davis Mountains Nut Company/Gus’ Gourmet Flavored Pecans products.
They currently sell nine flavors of gourmet pecans: Chocolate Fudge, Cinnamon Toast, Orange Twang, Mocha Madness, Sweet & Spicy, Key Lime, Hot-N-Spicy, Praline and the original flavor that started it all, Vanilla Almond. Over the last couple of years, I’ve personally purchased a number of the variety gift tins to give as gifts (and to keep for ourselves), and I can honestly say that every flavor is my favorite.
Free samples are always available when you stop by the store located at 610 N. State Street in Fort Davis, open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday though Saturday. Besides the tasty hand-dipped pecans, they also offer raw pecan halves and pieces, dry roasted nuts, oils, pralines, and even a Fort Davis barbecue sauce. Gifts can be shipped anywhere and a full menu is on their website, www.allpecans.com.
I grew up in a house with 21 mature pecan trees in the front and back yards. One of my LEAST favorite chores was to fill a paper grocery bag with pecans before I could go play. I hated pecans more than anything for my entire childhood. I still remember that joyous day when Mom brought home the red springy-thing that you rolled over the nuts and it picked them up for you. It took many years away from the back-breaking chore of picking pecans until I could take a bite of pecan pie and actually not snarl. Now, I adore pecan pie… pecan anything… plain old pecans… as long as I’m not the one stooped over collecting them! The flavor of these bars reminds me of my mother’s pecan tarts, but I think it was with much less effort than she went to…
Pecan Pie Bars
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half Bob’s Red Mill Organic and half Bob’s Red Mill Organic Gluten-Free – just to give my gluten-sensitivity a break)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup butter, softened (Kerry Gold, baby!)
1 can (14 ounces) Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (homemade from a dwindling batch of vodka and whole vanilla beans… time to make some more!)
1 package (8 ounces) milk chocolate English toffee bits (My only option was Heath bits so I used Heath bits… and sampled them quite a few times to make sure they would suffice)
1 cup chopped pecans
In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press firmly onto the bottom of a greased 13×9-in. baking dish. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes.
Proof that I made this LOL… My husband says this is “a weird picture” and that my glasses are weird 😂
Meanwhile, in large bowl, beat the milk, egg, vanilla and salt until smooth. Stir in toffee bits and pecans; spread evenly over baked crust.
I know it looks unappetizing below, but it’s all mixed up. That white thing is my favorite spatula.
Bake for 20-25 minutes longer or until lightly browned. Cool. Cover and chill; cut into bars. Store in refrigerator. Makes 4 dozen.
NOTE: A 13×9 baking dish doesn’t fit in my Breville Smart Oven Pro so I used a 7×11 inch dish. My bars were quite a bit thicker than the recipe intended, and I cooked them a few minutes longer because of the thicker topping. They were so good 🙂